Advice for Applicants from NOF Technical Assistant (TA) Asante Yugen
Recorded Information Sessions
Neighborhood Opportunity Fund (NOF) has over 40 partner organizations supporting NOF applicants, grantees, and alumni. These organizations work in Chicago's communities and provide assistance to entrepreneurs looking to start or grow their business ventures and enterprises. From hosting NOF information sessions, presenting topically relevant workshops, to providing one-on-one applicant coaching sessions, these organizations are available and ready to support you.
The first step to taking on a project is having control of the project site and be able to show evidence of this site control, or be engaged in the process to obtain site control. NOF acknowledges that for those who do not already own the property, obtaining site control BEFORE applying can be a significant barrier, so the City does not require formal control at application. However, applicants should be able to provide documentation demonstrating that they are working with the seller of the property or landlord in order to secure control. Although grants can be used to renovate real estate, a project property that has significant issues, such as mechanic liens, court orders related to building code violations or substantial past due property taxes, are unlikely to be selected for a NOF grant.
These are some available resources to help with project readiness:
|Ensure the property is zoned for your proposed business type||City of Chicago Zoning and Land Use Map|
|Check for past due property taxes||Cook County Property Tax Portal|
|Check for liens, pending cases, court orders and other issues||Cook County Recorder|
|Look to see if there are any known building code violations or other disciplinary issues that need to be resolved|
|Learn how to set up and register your business||City of Chicago's Small Business Center (Dept of BACP)|
|Free business education workshops covering a variety of topics for relevant for new and seasoned business owners||Business Workshops presented by BACP|
Applicants should be able to detail the total project cost, including hard costs (e.g. building mechanical systems and façade repair), soft costs (e.g. architectural fees) and acquisition costs, when applicable. Once the total project cost has been calculated, applicants should also be able to demonstrate proof of funding for their share of project costs, in addition to, and outside of, the NOF grant.
The City realizes that financing is often a challenge and realistically may not be finalized by the time of application. Successful applicants identify how much funding is needed and have considered how to fill funding gaps. Applicants who have not secured sources of funding for their share of project costs should be able to identify a strategy to secure the funding gap.
These are some available resources to help with financial feasibility:
|Women's Business Development Center||Offers business development counseling, workshops and classes, and access to capital for childcare businesses||Call Nicole Aleman 312-853-3477 Extension #100 to request an appointment.|
|Forefront Library||Offers assistance to non-profit organizations in researching grants.||Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 312-578-0175 to request a free appointment.|
|The Resurrection Project||Offers financial education and coaching.||Call 312-880-1137 to request an appointment.|
|Ladder Up||Offers financial education and coaching.||Call 312-409-1555 to request an appointment.|
|Allies for Community Business||Allies for Community Business is a nonprofit community lender dedicated to helping entrepreneurs generate income, build assets, create jobs and achieve financial success through business ownership.|
|Chicago Community Loan Fund||Offers flexible, affordable and responsible financing and technical assistance that benefit low- to moderate-income neighborhoods, families and individuals throughout metropolitan Chicago.|
|Multi-Family TIF Purchase-Rehab Program||This program from the City of Chicago, Department of Housing may provide NOF applicants with grant funding for the residential portion of mixed-use buildings.|
Applicants should show construction bids and/or detail how the estimated construction costs are substantiated. It's a good idea to speak with general contractors before applying to understand the requirements, process, and cost estimates. Most, if not all, NOF projects will need City of Chicago building permits so it is important to understand the permitting, construction, and inspection process.
These are some available resources to help with Construction Planning:
|City of Chicago, Dept of Buildings||Guide to Permits|
|Find a licensed General Contractor||List of General Contractors licensed in City of Chicago|
|Chicago's Design Guidelines||See Draft|
|The American Institute of Architects||Working with an architect (short videos)|
|NOF Technical Assistance Providers*||View the list|
|Sample Construction Planning worksheet (Excel)|
*While financial assistance for the NOF Technical Assistance Program is only available to selected finalists and grantees, NOF applicants may want to connect with these consultants prior to submitting an application to better understand the services they provide. Applicants who are not selected as an NOF finalist can work with these organizations outside of the NOF program if they chose.
The NOF program uses existing community plans as well as input from elected officials and community stakeholders to identify projects that fill a community need and are desired by residents. Grant applicants should research the local community area and be able to speak to how their project might enhance the strengths and opportunities in the neighborhood and/or mitigate any of the neighborhood's weaknesses or threats.
These are some available resources to help with addressing the impact of your project:
|Invest South/West||Find community plans for Chicago's Invest S/W neighborhoods|
|Chicago Wards||Find the local Ward|
|Connect To Cook||Find business and community reports for areas in Cook County|
It is important to research and develop a business plan before embarking on a new business or making a significant investment into an existing business. Here are just some resources on writing business plans, calculating your start-up costs, or developing financial projects ( including income statements, balance sheets, and cash flow statements ). For more information or one-on-one coaching, we recommend that you contact one of our community partners.